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Entertainment systems behind closed doors

''Entertainers'' are not always observed just as performers on a stage. These days they are often seen as a distinctly new breed of furniture, too. Whether they are called ''entertainers'' or ''entertainment centers,'' these large and handsome single pieces of furniture have evolved from a consumer need to house, out of sight, a number of audiovisual components.

Leonard Eisen, designer for Pulaski Furniture Corporation, calls these new pieces ''audiovideo'' furniture and says they have been designed to express both style and status, as well as function. ''We have simply responded to a declared need,'' he explains.

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''People often go out and purchase the finest and most expensive audiovideo equipment they can find,'' he points out, ''but until now they have not been able to find anything to put it in that is of comparable quality and value. Those $99 racks and other cheap stuff on the market could hardly do the job.''

Mr. Eisen's version of the entertainer comes in contemporary, traditional, and country oak styling and retails from $1,000 to $1,200. He calls them ''do it all'' pieces, since they not only store components and hide television sets, but offer other storage space and display areas for art objects and crafts.

Gary Hokanson, director of design for American of Martinsville, calls entertainers ''the next generation of vertical storage.'' He explains that he and his company began to think seriously about such pieces when they became aware that more and more people were avidly purchasing all the electronic gadgetry available on the market, including Beta systems and video recorders, but lacked a logical place to put them.

Mr. Hokanson observed, too, that many of these equipment collectors were living in smaller spaces and didn't have room to spread things around. What they needed most, he decided, was a single piece of furniture that would be engineered inside to contain and arrange an array of equipment, and that would have the elegance and class to serve as a room's focal point.

When Hokanson researched the market he found plenty of low- and medium-price wall systems that were being used to hold components. But few were deep enough to accommodate color television sets (including the yoke that fits around the back of the mechanism), removable back panels, and proper ventilation openings.

Research also told him that most people object to television sets in the living room because they think they are ugly. So he concealed the TV sets in all his ''entertainer'' models behind doors. He made the doors easy to fold back and placed the sets on swivels and slide-out shelves. Like Pulaski and other manufacturers of entertainers, he also equipped them with proper electrical outlets. The entertainers now coming into retail stores from American will retail between $1,200 and $3,500.

Other companies introducing home entertainment centers include Trend Line, Lane, Hammary, and Stanley. Some of the entertainers resemble armoires on the outside. Others look like sturdy chests, with drawers at the top and cabinets below. Some have tambour doors that glide down to hide all the apparatus. Some are now in stores. Others will be shipped to retail outlets soon.

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